"Batman: The Dark Knight" #11 is Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch's second issue together, and it's a pleasure to see that last month's collaboration wasn't a fluke. Reading "Batman: The Dark Knight" #11 makes me wish that this is what we'd been getting since issue #1.
This second part of Hurwitz's debut story arc continues to pit Batman against the Scarecrow, a character that feels like it plays to Finch's strengths as an artist. Hurwitz writes a disturbing and dark version of the character, one that was experimented on as a child to discover the nature of fear. "Batman: The Dark Knight" #11 is titled "Cycle of Violence" in case the insinuation wasn't already clear; the damage done to the Scarecrow as a child is being passed along to the new children that the Scarecrow himself is abducting and experimenting on. Hurwitz shows just enough to unsettle the reader, but never crosses the line into too much or exploitive. We don't see what the children being experimented upon see, just their reactions (or in the case of the Scarecrow, a view from behind of his father). It keeps the book from being too dark, while also letting the reader fill in the details out of their own imagination.
Hurwitz also adds the latest girlfriend for Bruce Wayne, and she's of the strong-willed variety. While Natalya's hardly the first to fall into that category, it's still refreshing to see a woman who stands up to Bruce's constant evasions and disappearances. Some bits of her dialogue come across a bit clumsily (the over-emphasis of her Ukrainian heritage for starters) but on the whole I find her likable and a good addition to the Bruce Wayne romantic catalog.
Finch pencils and inks "Batman: The Dark Knight" #11 and overall there's a lot to like. His two-thirds splash on the first page of the Scarecrow is instantly creepy; his spindly arms and fingers are unsettling, and his eyes and teeth glimpsed through the mask look genuinely scary. As cliché as it might be, the big splash of the Batmobile roaring out of the tunnel with a cloud of bats around it looks great; it's an iconic drawing and it's fun to see these pages taken up not with a hero leaping through the air, but something more focused on an inanimate object and the surrounding countryside.
Occasionally the art feels a little off. The little girl abducted at the playground has such a small body compared to her head in some of the panels that it took me a minute to realize that it was more artistic error than anything else. The spindly nature of the Scarecrow doesn't map as well onto other characters. Some of the smaller panels (like Bruce waking up at Wayne Manor) also come across a little scratchy and hard to view. Still, images like the hunched over shadow of the Scarecrow as the standing-upright real body spray the girl are drawn wonderfully, and the back-lit silhouette of the Scarecrow's father is scary without having to accentuate anything out of the ordinary.
"Batman: The Dark Knight" in two issues has transformed itself from the misstep of the Batman line of comics to a finely polished product. Hurwitz's scripts are strong, and Finch's art has risen to the occasion and turned out his best work on the title to date. If you'd written off "Batman: The Dark Knight" up until now, take a look at #10-11. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.